Nearly 28 Tonnes Of Cocaine Worth $1.65 Billion Seized After Police Access Criminal Network
Police in Belgium have seized 28 tonnes of cocaine worth $1.65 billion after gaining access to a criminal phone network.
Belgian Federal Police have been carrying out a series of raids across the country in recent weeks after infiltrating a messaging app called ‘Sky ECC’.
The app lets its users communicate with one another without fear of being tracked. It disables a phone’s camera, GPS and microphone. It also automatically deletes messages within 30 seconds.
In February, police were able to gain access to the network, watching as suspected criminals exchanged thousands of messages, The Brussels Times reports.
In a statement yesterday, April 5, Belgian Federal Police said that since February 20, it had seized 27.64 tonnes of cocaine at the port of Antwerp. The astonishing figure comes after 11 tonnes of the drug were seized on April 3, after information about the shipment sent via Sky ECC was discovered by police, CNN reports.
‘During a judicial investigation into a potential service criminal organisation suspected of knowingly providing encrypted telephones to the criminal environment, police specialists managed to crack the encrypted messages from Sky ECC,’ police said in a statement.
‘This data provides elements in current files but also opened up new criminal offences. The international smuggling of cocaine batches plays a prominent role in intercepted reports,’ the statement added.
News that authorities had cracked Sky ECC’s communication software first broke earlier this month, but the company strongly denied the hack, claiming that its platform was still secure.
‘SKY ECC has not been contacted by any investigative authority. SKY ECC did not authorize or cooperate with the investigative authorities or those involved with the distribution of the fake phishing application,’ the company said in a statement at the time.
Last summer, police in France and Netherlands infiltrated a similar network, called EncroChat, and shared their findings with Europol. Subsequently, police made more than 800 arrests across Europe.
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) described it as a ‘landmark breakthrough’ in the fight against organised crime. Some of the messages detailed drug trafficking plots and planned murders as well as videos and images of suspected criminals.
‘The infiltration of this command and control communication platform for the UK’s criminal marketplace is like having an inside person in every top organised crime group in the country,’ NCA’s director of investigations, Nikki Holland, said.
Earlier this year, a UK court ruled that prosecutors could use messages sent via EncroChat in court. Under British law, intercepted evidence cannot be used in court, however, the presiding judges ruled that the messages were not gained by ‘interception’.
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